July 22, 2012

Review: Zero by Tom Leveen

PhotobucketSynopsis (from Goodreads): For aspiring artist Amanda Walsh, who only half-jokingly goes by the nickname Zero, the summer before college was supposed to be fun—plain and simple. Hanging out with her best friend Jenn, going to clubs, painting, and counting down the days until her escape. But when must-have scholarship money doesn't materialize, and she has a falling out with Jenn that can only be described as majorly awkward, and Zero's parents relationship goes from tense to relentless fighting, her prospects start looking as bleak and surreal as a painting by her idol Salvador Dali. Will life truly imitate art? Will her new, unexpected relationship with a punk skater boy who seems too good to be real and support from the unlikeliest of sources show Zero that she's so much more than a name.

Review: Zero is a novel that took me completely by surprise. I expected it to be a typical teenage coming-of-age story - and in some ways it was - but it turned out to be so much more than that. When we meet Amanda, or Zero as she prefers, she’s a timid girl trying to figure out what to do next. She’s lost her college chances, her best friend and has family problems aplenty. This all seems fairly standard fare, but Tom Leveen manages to give a refreshing take on the situation that helps Zero stand out from the rest in its genre.
I’ll admit, Amanda annoyed my for a lot of the novel. She was just so angsty. Obviously she had to be, and it was an honest portrayal, not forced, but sometimes it just felt grating. This complaint resolved somewhat as the novel progressed and Amanda starts to see herself as more than ‘zero.’ Her character development was natural and never felt forced. And the best part - it came from herself! Yes, there was a boy involved, but he wasn’t the sole reason Amanda developed. 
Speaking of the boy, Mike was interesting. He was a sweet love interest, although I am a bit biased - musical guys are my soft spot. He was a good fit for Amanda, and was so sweet.  He builds Amanda up, but not in a creepy, demanding way. He just acknowledges her awesome-ness like it’s a fact, and never talks down to her or forces her into anything. Woo-hoo for a healthy relationship being portrayed in YA fiction!
Overall, I found Zero to be a refreshing, sweet read. There was definite depth and growth within its pages and it’s more serious than your typical YA contemporary. If you love art, music, or just want to read a quality book, give this one a go. 
Rating: 4 out of 5